Monday, April 29, 2013

Virtual Vanderbilt

Planning to come to our Reunion this fall? I sure hope so.

Has it been awhile since you've been back on campus?

Are you wondering how you'll know your way around 40 years after you graduated?

And what about those of us who still live in Nashville or who visit  relatively frequently?

Well, not to worry. First, despite all the new and ongoing construction (have you seen the new College Halls going up where Kissam Quadrangle once stood?),  the campus is still familar enough for all of us to easily navigate to whatever we're looking to find.

And to help you even more, here's a link to a virtual tour of Vanderbilt, narrated by a present day student.

It's very cool, check it out including the videos and the 360-degree photos!

So you can see while some things have changed (nothing like that Admissions Office when we applied), other parts of the campus such as Alumni Lawn and Kirkland Hall look just like they did during our last semester in the spring of 1973.

But while a virtual tour is wonderful, there's nothing like seeing the real thing in person. So if haven't done so already, go to the VU reunion web site and sign up today to say "yes" I am coming to Reunion in October.

 You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Major Step Forward And A Major Change In The Vandy Skyline

It's been a part of the Vanderbilt skyline and its operations about as long as Kirkland Hall. But now it's finally going away much to the cheers of environmentalists and sustainability experts.

It's the coal-burning smoke stack you can see on the right side of the photo above. I'm sure all of us remember the plant and the related large coal pile that used to be located near the smokestack, just behind Rand Hall back in our days on campus (now the Sarratt Student Center). It's all going away along with the three-story bag house (a coal filtering system), the coal hoppers and the coal silo.

According to a news release from the University, the Board of Trust has voted to replace its coal generation facility with a system that burns natural gas at a cost of $29 million.  One major reason for the change: natural gas prices are lower while electricity and maintenence costs are rising. Besides environmentalists say, the change will help improve air quality.

How big a change is this? Well, the university's release says Vanderbilt has been producing "steam and electricity for more than 100 years. The current plant and its hub of underground networks (the famous steam tunnels connecting the dorms and other buildings on campus) began in their current location in 1923." Over the next two years it will be replaced by "two natural gas-fired boilers  and one natural gas-combustion turbine, which will co-generate steam and electricity."

I guess this also means that the station manager of WRVU will lose one of his/her really neat perks (if this hasn't happened already). Back in the days before it went FM (which no longer exists) the station used to be on "carrier current," meaning it broadcast its signal down some lines strung though the steam tunnels to small transmitters in each dorm which radiated the signal throughout the campus (kind of, it didn't always work so well). Anyway each year the station manager got a set of keys to be able to access the steam tunnels I guess for maintenence purposes. I'm sure it led to some very interesting  late-night tours (the most likely times) of what remains Vanderbilt's underground catacomb system.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

In Case You're Getting Those Nightmares Again.....

Final exams for the spring semester begin today (April 23) for Vanderbilt students!

So click below and share your favorite (or worst) stories about taking exams or tests while you were a student at Vanderbilt.

Maybe it will be good therapy after all these years!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Traditions That Endure Even Until Today

There are several enduring national and local traditions that began while we were at Vanderbilt.

One is Earth Day, observed for the first time 43 years ago today on April 22, 1970, the spring of our freshman year.

I don't have a specific memory of a Vanderbilt event on that first Earth Day. Do you? If so, leave a message below to share here on the blog.

Here's what Walter Crockite had to say in his wrap-up commentary at the end of a CBS News special covering the events and demonstrations of that first Earth Day. It's amazing how his comments are still the subject of debate even now...

One local tradition that also began while we were on campus and that continues right up until this past weekend is Rites of Spring. The annual music festival with its performance stage on Alumni Lawn was first held in April, 1971. That 42 years and going strong. It appears however, at least the first year, there were also special displays on Rand Terrace that were part of the Rites of Spring activities as reported in our 1973 COMMODORE Yearbook.

Photo courtesy of THE TENNESSEAN
Miguel and Dru DeCaro perform Friday, April 18, 2013 at Vanderbilt's Rites of Spring

I could only find a roster of past performers that dated back to 1986.  On that list were some real stars (and those are just the ones I recognize). Those include: Bo Diddley (1990), Crosby and Nash (1993), Smashing Pumpkins (1994), Dave Mathews Band (1995), George Clinton (1997), Third Eye Blind (1998), Black Eyed Peas (2002), Hootie & the Blowfish (2005), and Lady Antebellum (2008).

So as we prepare to return to campus this fall for our 40th Class reunion, some things change and some traditions that began when we were on campus endure well into their fourth decade.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Loooking Back On That Big Decision

Not to beat the drum too much, but April can be the cruelest month.

In the spring of 1969, that's  when we had to decide (much as many high school seniors across the country have been doing this past month) whether Vanderbilt or some other school would be our college of choice. Forty-plus years later, it may seem all so simple or pre-destined now, but it was one of the first really big decisions of our young lives.

And we wanted to make sure we were doing it right.

In that regard, it's great to read an article like the one featured in THE NEW YORK TIMES on-line blog section THE CHOICE, (published April 10) where an in-coming Vanderbilt Class of 2017 freshman, Bryan Stromer from New York City has confirmed, after a trip to Nashville and the campus, that he is very happy about his choice.

And he's happy I think for some of the same reasons that may have attracted us to Vanderbilt so many years ago.....

For me, I got wait-listed in 1969 and didn't get to say yes to Vanderbilt, until I was came over as a transfer student in the Fall of 1971. After two years across the street attending Peabody, it was one of the greatest days of my life when I got the letter offering me admission to the VU Class of 1973. Having been born and raised in Nashville, and spending a lot of time in my early years riding by or walking through the campus, I knew this was the place for me.

Looking back, I can still relate to the wonder and excitement this new Vanderbilt students feels as he contemplates his next four years beginning late this summer. Actually I mix with that a little envy wishing I could do it all over again, although that's when I remember, that given what a national university Vandrbilt has become, I have strong doubts I could be admitted today.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

40 Years Later, Baseball Is Even Bigger At Vanderbilt

The only Southeastern Conference championship Vanderbilt captured while we were in school, came in our senior year of 1973, when our Centennial class member and center fielder Tommy Powell (seen above, right, holding the SEC throphy) helped spark a two-game sweep of Alabama to win the crown.

Powell is also remembered in Commodore lore for his walk-off grand slam home run to cap a 9th inning rally to beat the UT Vols, 10-9, at then McGugin Field during the 1973 championship season. And guess what? Just a couple of weeks ago, history more or less repeated itself as Vanderbilt freshman, Kyle Smith from Mt. Julet, stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 8th inning with Vanderbilt trailing the Big Orange 8-6. Watch this YouTube video to see what happened next......

 Vanderbilt won the game and swept the three games series with Tennessee. Presently the Black & Gold is 29-4 and 11-1 in the SEC, and ranked as high as second in the naion.

Even more so than when we were in school, baseball is big at Vanderbilt, with the school, under the leadership of Coach Tim Corbin, winning SEC regular season and tournament championships, as well NCAA Regional and Super Regional crowns and a berth in the College World Series in 2011. Vanderbilt has also had more than its share of players drafted into the Major Leagues, including 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, David Price and dozens of others.

But in many ways, Vandy first became a consistent SEC baseball power when we were in school with legendary coach Larry "Smokey" Schmittou building championship teams that not only won the pennant in 1973 but the next year as well in 1974. As we prepare to return to campus 40 years later, it is nice to know some things at Vanderbilt have just continued to improve over the years!

Monday, April 8, 2013

It Was Our Final Four & National Championship Game

Tonight is the culmination of March Madness! The national championship game of Louisville versus Michigan. It's the ultimate highlight of the college basketball season.

At least at Vanderbilt, college basketball was huge 40 years ago too, as you can see from the photo above of the student section at Memorial Gym. It was captured at the beginning our last home game versus UT in early March, 1973. To say it was packed to the rafters would be an understatement. As was the intensity of the crowd in how badly we wanted to smash the Big Orange (and its hated coach, Ray Mears).

And smash them we did that day with Vandy finishing the season at 20-6, recording the best record of the four years we were on campus. We even beat Kentucky home and home that season but lost enough other conference games to miss winning the SEC title. And because Vanderbilt was hosting the NCAA Mideast Regional on our home court that year (won in a very close game by Indiana and Bobby Knight over Kentucky), we were not allowed to participate in any post-season games such as the NIT or even the runner-up Commissioner's tournament held in those days.  This could have been a year Vandy had the team to make a Final Four run, if only....
The players seen above are the VU Centennial Class of 1973 seniors from that team (from the left) Rod Freeman, Chris Schweer, Ray Maddux and Steve Turner. They helped lay the foundation to rebuild Vanderbilt basketball while we were in campus.


Celebrating our UT victory back in early March 1973, it was these players  above (except for Steve Turner, third from the right) who helped us win an SEC Championship and a Mideast regional berth the year after we graduated in 1974. Pictured are (from the left) Butch Feher, Terry Compton, Jan Van Breda Kollf and Jeff Fosnes. They along with other the stars on that team, including Bill Ligon,  Lee Fowler and Joe Ford, gave VU only its second ever SEC crown under legendary coach Roy Skinner.

Remember in those days, you had to win the title to go the Big Dance. And if the 1974 squad had had a big man such as Turner, we might made it to the Final Four that year too. Of course, UCLA had Bill Walton and Coach John Wooden winning the Final Four every year we were in school and beyond, so winning the national title was not likely.

But just think of what could have been....  

Thanks to THE TENNESSEAN for the photos.

Friday, April 5, 2013


The VU Centennial Class is back!

The Class of 1973 returns to the Vanderbilt campus the weekend of October 3-5, 2013 for its 40th Reunion.

With this blog (as we did five years ago), connected with our Class Facebook page and  web site (still under construction), you will be able to find the latest information on the activities for Reunion weekend and all the other details you'll need to have a great time. And through this blog, you'll also have a chance to look back and remember all the great times we had at Vandy back in the late 1960s and early '70s, and think back as well on what it meant to live during what was both a turbulent and historic period in our nation and our culture.

If you have any topics or things to suggest we look back on or talk about on the blog, let me know at Also please feel free to scroll and down and look at what we discussed back in 2008. We'll probably cover some of the same topics (heck, the football team looks to be even better than it was back in the 2008 season) and Nashville is currently one of the "it" cities in the entire nation according to THE NEW YORK TIMES.

Vanderbilt continues to become a national university and the campus continues to grow and change, while still in many ways having the same "feel" and beauty we all remember.  Many of our favorite haunts near campus remain in business including Rotiers,  Pancake Pantry and the Elliston Place Soda Shop among others. Maybe 40 years wasn't so long ago after all!